- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2009

CUBA

Access granted to jailed American

HAVANA | The Cuban government has given a U.S. diplomat access to a jailed American citizen accused of providing communications equipment to dissident groups while working as a government contractor, a U.S. official in Havana said Tuesday.

The case has drawn denunciations from Cuban President Raul Castro and further strained U.S.-Cuba relations after months of slow but steady progress toward easing their half-century diplomatic standoff.

The visit by a consular official took place Monday at an undisclosed location where the American is being held after his arrest in early December, according to a spokeswoman at the U.S. Interests Section, which Washington maintains in Havana instead of an embassy.

RUSSIA

Flights resume to Georgia

MOSCOW | Moscow on Monday gave a Georgian airline permission to fly to Russia for the first time since the two countries fought a war last year, but Georgian Airways said the permission came too late to organize the flights.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month announced a series of moves to restore ties between the Georgian and Russian people, but warned there would be no official contacts as long as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili remained in office.

The Russian transport ministry announced on Monday it had given Georgian Airways permission for charter flights on Dec. 29 and 30. Ministry spokesman Timur Khikmatov said they would be the first passenger flights since the war.

SOMALIA

Pirates seize more booty

NAIROBI, Kenya | Somali pirates seized a ship carrying fertilizer from the U.S. in the Indian Ocean and a British-flagged chemical tanker in the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden - the first merchant vessel to be hijacked in the gulf in nearly six months, officials said Tuesday.

The hijackings late Monday showed that pirates are relentless in their pursuit of quick money from ransoms and that ship owners need to take extra precaution when sailing around the Horn of Africa, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

MALAWI

Gay couple jailed for getting married

BLANTYRE | A gay couple was jailed for “gross indecency” in Malawi after the country’s first same-sex public wedding ceremony over the weekend, as several African states were clamping down on homosexuality.

A police spokesman told Agence France-Presse that Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, the first Malawian gays to publicly wed in a symbolic ceremony on Saturday “will appear in court soon to answer charges of gross indecency.”

Homosexuality is banned in many African counties where the public discussion of sex is still taboo.

INDIA

Chemical fire kills at least two

MUMBAI | A fire broke out in a chemical laboratory at India’s main nuclear research facility Tuesday, killing at least two people, an official said.

The fire was extinguished within 45 minutes at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center on the outskirts of Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital, the center’s spokesman said.

AFGHANISTAN

Karzai warns of civilian deaths

KABUL | President Hamid Karzai sent a government delegation Tuesday to investigate Afghan reports that 10 civilians, including eight students, were killed in fighting involving foreign troops in a tense area of eastern Afghanistan. A NATO official said initial reports indicated nine insurgents were killed.

Karzai condemned the deaths that reportedly occurred Sunday in a village in the Narang district of Kunar province.

Civilian deaths are one of the most sensitive issues for foreign troops in Afghanistan. Although far more civilians are killed by the Taliban, those triggered by foreign troops spark widespread resentment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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